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McLaren will be very strong
17 June 2005 Volume 7 - Issue 10

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The Canadian race certainly scrambled my thinking of which teams are stronger.

One only has to compare qualifying with race results to conclude that from a logical point the race was a shambles. Three cars managed to make contact with the wall of which Button (who started on pole) and Alonso certainly had a chance to finish on the podium. Only Michael Schumacher finished in the same spot that he qualified. Both Renaults and both BARs retired so there is little point in trying to determine how fast they are and Toyota and Williams looked somewhat pedestrian.

Ferrari did much better than they have for most of the season but I wonder if they could have done that well if it were not for the many retirements of competitive cars. Michael got pretty close towards the end of the race (thanks to the safety car and Kimi's mistake) but never looked as if he had the pace to overtake.

At least Raikkonen managed to recover some points, aided by Alonso’s retirement.

So, McLaren is strong – we knew that, Ferrari may be getting better, Renault were on pace with McLaren but I feel they won't be in Indianapolis but it is too early to tell, Williams also loses ground and Toyota looked slow.
BAR! ... the rules are now starting to show how absurd they really are. After spending 24 laps in the pits Sato joins the race with a new gearbox just so that he may not have to be the first car out on qualifying in Indianapolis. When teams have to play these sort of games to stay in the running one must wonder.

Indianapolis (track layout) is a combination of Monaco and Monza. The twisty internal part of the circuit requires either a lot of downforce (big wings) or excellent mechanical grip, the outer section is very fast and needs small wings to achieve the higher speeds.

The starting grid forms in the early part of the main straight, leaving about half of the straight to build speed before braking for turn one which is taken at less than 100km/H(62mph).

The cars that get through turn one will build a little speed to the second corner which is negotiated at 115km/H(71mph) entering the slower inner section of the circuit. Turn 3 is a little more open and cars should scoot through there at around 230km/H(143mph). Four is slower again and 5 is back to 115km/H(71mph). Cars stay at around this speed until turn 7 which leads up to a small straight where cars get up to 300km/H(186mph) before slowing to below 120km/H(74mph) for turn 8 and staying slow again through turns 9, 10 and 11 where they start building through 250km/H(155mph) for the very fast section of the circuit. Turn 13 is very fast (over 300km/H(186mph) and the leading cars should exceed 350km/H(217mph) down the main straight.

Overtaking will probably still be restricted to the pits but there is a chance that some overtaking will happen on the very fast sections where faster cars will have ample time to drag-race to the next corner. Of course varying fuel loads could also provide some overtaking.

With the new rules that restrict cars to one set of tyres, Indianapolis is going to be a delicate compromise between the drag required to be fast on the inner track and the aerodynamic efficiency needed for the faster section.

So why do I refer to the tyres when the compromise is between downforce and drag?

Well, if the car is set up to be very fast on the long straights it should theoretically be a low drag or low downforce configuration. Low down force on the tighter, inner, section will allow the cars to move around a lot (i.e. slide a lot more) which will increase the wear of the tyres.

In previous years the issue was only: Will the loss of grip on the slow bits cost more or less in lap time than the gain in straight line speed? Now they also have to consider tyre wear.

McLaren seem to have enough power to work this compromise best. Toyota, rumoured to have the most powerful engines, do not seem to have the chassis to do the slower bits. Williams may have the chassis but it appears that they do not have that much power to play with.

McLaren and Raikkonen seem to be the best combination. They will be hard to beat. Montoya could be good, but then who knows? He will have a poor qualifying slot and that will affect him negatively.

Renault may struggle. They should be very fast in the slower section but do not seem to have enough power to be fast on the straight too. They may have to wait for later circuits that may suit them better although most of the circuits from now on are fast.
They too will be disadvantaged by their early qualifying slots.

Ferrari looks as if they are getting better. I suspect that they are a little lower on power than they would like to be but that could come right over time. They would also be distracted by their gearbox problems.

Despite Ferrari’s return to the podium in strength I still feel that the cars are not quite there yet. Even in clear air they seem to be unable to post the very fast laps we can remember from last year.

Who knows with Williams? Just as I think they are starting to get competitive their next race is pretty average. Indianapolis is probably not for them.

Toyota could do well, simply because they may get the straight line speed so much higher that they can afford to sacrifice inner track performance, but will their tyres last?

BAR could go either way. Before their enforced absence they were starting to look strong. It is hard to know how long it will take to recover but Button looked as the best of the rest before he crashed into the wall. They could be fast in Indianapolis.

Agree or disagree ?

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